House-and-Gardened living room (see above), listening to Beethoven, the Sonata for Violin and Piano in F, Op. 24 (“Spring”). I have that delicious convalescent feeling, frailty borne with a light spirit; I feel as though I’m transparent.
My thorny roommate equation, which had vexed until now both muggins here and an Air Canada Centre’s worth of exasperated friends and family, has been solved—unexpectedly, uniquely, obliquely, by my being presented, last-second, with a guy who I didn’t search for, who shares my values (which I will spontaneously formulate as: keep your sense of humor, try to be intelligent, help others less fortunate, be humble, and get high every so often, but not enough to eat into your savings or your soul) and who contributes. Energy, money, ideas, support.
You shouldn’t have to labor at keeping the minutiae of life pinned down; your conviction that life is drudgery is a warning sign that your attention is misdirected. When things work, they are so utterly simple.
My new roomie has every reason to dance, and so do I. But for now I’m just enjoying the predictable, blissful exhaustion and unpredictable, blissful Beethoven.
Speaking of Helen Keller, have you ever
tried to explain pluralistic democracy to an American? I mean, recently? Or a Canadian for that matter. The cybersphere is currently overrun with overwrought geezers—or they may be paid lackeys of the international society of David-teasers, you never know—who are enduring the terrible burden of having to share their equality toys and the limelight with their newborn little bro’s—”the gays” and “the trannies”—and for me to point out that they are not enjoying the exercise would be an understatement at a level akin to the opinion voiced by the first visitor to the Grand Canyon, who took one look and muttered, “My, my, quite a slice.”
If these Libertarian geezers had their druthers they’d toss said little bro’s down the back staircase, cot, Bunnikins cup, security blanket and all, because—well. You know. What’s in it for them?
Or, as one dolt said to me last night as I defended Justin Trudeau and “his” new bill barring hate speech directed towards trans persons, “I don’t get anything extra because I’m Caucasian, so why should they?”
And that’s when I shot myself.
Before I crawl into the stagnant pond of my lukewarm bath which was newly-drawn and hot about six hours ago, I’d like to ask you a question or two. First, why do you think Constitutions, Bills of Rights, Charters of Rights and Freedoms and other such documents exist?
And another thing: Would you make this sort of statement to a stranger online: “You are proselytizing the politics of Sodom and Gomorrah, and as they were destroyed, so will you be.” ? (What could be next? “I saw Biddy Roddis with the Devil!”?)
To respond to a person who is so self-righteous that he believes “being destroyed” is a fate reserved solely for his ideological enemies, just remind him: We’re all going to be destroyed, bub.
That’s our common fate as mankind— liberal, conservative, saint and sinner—which makes it all the more crucial that we make the most of our messy, inchoate and incomprehensible lives while we can.
And surely that might involve paying attention to something—anything—besides ourselves and our small pond we insist on believing is the ocean.
Actually, that’s a blatant lie, not a single one of you has written, sent a message in an old Shiraz bottle, hired a bird from “Carrier Pigeons Plus” or done any of those “too busy to express how little I care but spending a portion of my vast disposable income on something that gives ME a laugh will substitute, sort of, and anyway, like it or lump it” things that would lead me to believe that my followers are actually, you know.
You may be wondering: I’m living solo at home again. Yeah, you can hold off sending in an application. For my bedroom, during the past three and a half years, eight months, two weeks and five days, has served much the same function as John Hurt’s belly in Alien, or, should you insist on CanCon, one of Genevieve Bujold’s uteri in Dead Ringers:-
A safe haven for those who, having mastered the appearance of what currently passes for normal until the agreement is signed, are looking for a space in which to achieve their true form, then, having gorged to repletion on whatever leathery tubes and lobes are to hand, explode into existence as yet another iteration of bucking, wiggling nameless horror.
And have YOU cleaned exploded abdomen off your bedroom walls lately? Five cans of Comet later my hands are like two red udders, and just TRY telling your building management that it’s from spending too much time skiing in Gstaad. Like, seriously??!!
So, in the interests of keeping my blog alive, I hereby demonstrate my well-honed off-fobbing skills with an animated GIF, those Lascaux cave paintings of the early Web which have now resurfaced as the crack cocaine of social media—and animated GIFs of cats are the true, pure Colombian shit.
Just don’t cut yourself on the nasty, sharp, broken edges of your monitor in your haste to sample the goods. There’s a petal. Cause open sores on the lips don’t jibe with that Craigslist ad of yours that goes
“Chew! My! Nipples!!?? Barely legal teen, up to two fingers, wants horizons expanded!! Orange toupées, billionaires and sponge-y, fleeting hard-ons front of line!! OMFG??!! Looking??!! for NOW???!!! PayPal???!!!”
Cats, in case you hadn’t noticed, are the second-most pathetically laughable beings on the planet, combining as they do unshakeable belief in their entitlement to your slavery, a chilly dignity that is 99% condescension, and an unbridled, nobody’s-watching, let-your-fur-down, meaningless and self-serving acrobatic idiocy.
So, then. Wanna know how I’m doing, solo once more? Since you asked?
« À bientôt, ma Virginia collective, à bientôt … »
When I first visited New York City, in 2012, I went by bus, and distinguished myself at the end of the 10-hour journey, as we prepared to plunge into the Lincoln Tunnel, by hyperventilating noisily on my first sight of the glittering Manhattan skyline.
This, I reminded myself, was what I had been waiting for all my life: my homecoming to the city that had never been my home, my “Midnight Cowboy” moment. It was merely a passing inconvenience that, to any casual observer, I was apparently in the throes of a psychotic meltdown or expiring from anaphylactic shock.
Luckily I was in New York City, and no one paid me the least attention.
I stayed in a hotel on the Lower East Side, Chinatown to be precise – I had chosen only the price range on a website that for some peculiar reason made hotel choosing into a kind of location lottery – a hotel whose rundown façade filled me with alarm, yet which, once I’d settled in and gotten my New York legs on, turned out to be not only acceptable, but charming.
This alarm-to-charm switchover was a metaphor for the city itself, and an apt first lesson for a New York neophyte, namely: That anywhere else, a scary, too-small, sub-standard living unit might be a slum, but in The Big Apple it was a find.
For the next five days I set about living the way I fancied a real New Yorker lived, under the bemused, expert guidance of my friend, John, and heartened by the Looney Tunes capering of his fox terrier, Flora.
I brazened through Manhattan as though it were my private estate; traveled to Brooklyn on the subway (a quick and merciless ad hoc training session, consisting of a demonstrated swipe and a raised eyebrow, both administered by a real New Yorker in under five seconds, took place at my first, unsuccessful, attempt to mate MTA card and turnstile); and refused to be a tourist, to gawk at Times Square, slouch around in trainers, or purchase tickets to some Broadway show.
I did, on the other hand, at 611 Broadway and purely by accident, find a branch of Crate and Barrel, where I bought two beautiful, perfect, plain and pure white cups and saucers from a deliciously snarky saleslady.
Everything about this saleslady was New York to me, from the nonchalant elegance of her outfit and the asymmetric perfection of her haircut, to her perfectly deployed daytime makeup and important yet self-deprecating jewellery; when she greeted me with, “Can I help you?”, it was impossible to miss her silky undertone of Let me save you from yourself.
She had the air that working at Crate and Barrel was somewhat beneath her, but that just for my sake she would conquer her distaste and make a noticeable effort. I indicated the pure white cups and saucers I wanted, and to her credit, she whisked them off the display for wrapping as though no other selection would have pleased her quite as much. It was an admirable performance that somewhat mitigated my failure to have purchased tickets to anything at the Harold Clurman Theatre.
Everyone in New York, or so it seemed, dressed to impress; walked, talked and ate to impress. To step out of my alarming-then-charming hotel was to make an entrance, and god help you if you ended up on that stage in sweat pants and Crocs, with sticky palms and searching for your lines like an actors’ nightmare. I soon understood that no effort I could yet make, no straining at fashion, or feigned worldliness or fast talking, would make the grade; I would never, not yet anyway, pass. The best I could hope for was not to be instantly labelled an out-of-towner.
For my first attempt, that would do.
Five days later, happier and wiser, I was no longer a New York virgin. My budget was blown; I’d seen the Monet waterlilies and Picasso’s “Le Desmoiselles d’Avignon”; I had shopped for food, been asked for directions, and made dinner for John; I’d been to Flatbush and, by the time I’d seen a guy jerking off at 23rd Street Station at four A.M., I felt reasonably confident that I’d covered all of the key New York experiences. And I had acquired absolutely nothing that could be called a souvenir.
Nothing except those two beautiful, perfect, plain and pure white cups and saucers.
That evening I packed them with care for the bus ride home, taping the tissue paper in place and nestling them in the folds of a sweater so they wouldn’t be jostled. On the Megabus, all through the night, I checked on them hourly, as though I feared they might spontaneously crack and disintegrate as Egyptian relics are supposed to. Sometime around Rochester I awoke with a start, believing that I’d only dreamed I’d packed them; that I’d actually abandoned them in the Chinatown hotel room.
Once installed in my Toronto apartment, my cups exerted a special power. They created a morning ritual around themselves, made the mundane fact of caffeine addiction into a Zen ceremony. I loved the dark reflective pool of steaming coffee held in the thin circle of white porcelain, loved how the cup felt in my hand, how well balanced, how perfectly it met my lips. I loved that we, the cups and saucers and I, had finally met, that we shared our secret of New York.
The cups and saucers began to relax, let their hair down, so to speak. The newness and optimism dissipated, and they became subtly but unmistakably aloof—
so that you felt they’d let you drink out of them, but would be hyper-vigilant for any rude noises you might make, and they’d watch to make sure you always used the saucer, so you shouldn’t dribble on your nice pants— klutz! –
– yet they were no less dear to me for all their little foibles.
I cherished those cups for the next four years; I guarded them like a father guards his nubile fifteen-year-old daughter. Not everyone got to drink out of those cups. Sometimes I would use one myself, but give my guest a two-dollar President’s Choice mug, just to make my position on their status clear, vis-à-vis my good dishes.
Sometime during the last reign of roommate terror, both the saucers got smashed in the Great Late Night Dishwashing Debacle, a tale too bloody to recount today. I must emphasize: Both saucers.
But I still had the cups.
Now it was like I’d bought my daughter a sports car and she was staying out late driving around with boys and getting home JUST in time so I couldn’t say anything about it.
Then one day — a day like any other day— I was in the kitchen and lo! the spirit of my mother shone round about me and I was sore afraid, and my arm made a great sweeping mother-movement and clattered through the stack of dishes like the rampaging hand of god and swept one of the cups off the draining board.
I actually cried out: “NOOOOOO!” A great big werewolf howl. As though howling could arrest the fall. As though how I felt could change anything.
After all those weeks and months, after four years of caring for and protecting and chaperoning that cup, it was, in the end, me that broke it. Little old careless mother- distracted me.
This is the way the world ends. Love, life, your white cups, your nice pants. Your marriage, your job, your great-aunts and your grandsons. All the things you care for.
Everything: All the people you mistrusted! All your wariness and boundaries and push-backs! And then it’s you that messes up! You!
I actually contemplated smashing the other cup deliberately, right then, just to get it over with. You know what I’m saying?
You only ever see the Chrysler Building once for the first time.
Today will be overly diffident, with occasional outbreaks of sarcasm followed by regret.
Competence will be nominal-to-intermittent as measured in “oPrahs”.
GENERAL: A collapsible umbrella advisory is in place. The rims of cups containing scalding beverages are farther away than they appear.
Wear socks to determine if there’s water on the kitchen floor, or go barefoot to locate the one remaining shard of broken Champagne flute.
Three PM brings 100% probability of reliving the split with your ex as you change the Band-aid on your heel. Downcast gives way to defiant after a swig of “Absolut”.
Evening finds you unsuccessful in your attempt to mask your home’s lingering smell of chain-smoking with a devil-may-care spritz of Axe Personal Fragrance.
Yes, that caller with a private number is “Collections”.
TECH INSIGHT: Take extra care to place your smartphone in your back pants pocket, so when you sit down you can accidentally send your account director that text you drafted calling him a “sociopathic catamite”.
It’s best to get these things over and done with.
DRESS TIPS: Tentative recos are clip-on tie and loafers OR scarf with brooch and ballet flats. Crocs and sweatpants? Play it by ear, but only definitely if you’ve completely forgotten that at 1 P.M. you and the team are treating Ronald Lauder and Renée Fleming to lunch at The Carlyle.
Distractibility is high today, clocking in at eight-out-of-ten on a scale where:
1 equals making yourself a cup of instant coffee in under 30 minutes but still forgetting the milk is off;
10 equals setting out to check your calendar and ending up eight hours later with a new operating system that’s worse than your previous one (the “Ubuntu factor”); PLUS an order confirmation for purchase of a vintage “Mister Potato Head” kit from eBay; and a whole slew of hate mail from “just-repeal-it-then-impeach-the-socialist-towel-head-dot-com”.
Emotional Turbulence (Fig. 1): There may be unexpected gusts of low-self-esteem-induced hysteria.
Never, but we mean NEVER, take refuge under a tree.
Instead, watch for the throwing of a small, decorative cushion, which signals that the hysteria has passed.
Count slowly from the outbreak of hysteria to find out how long until the cushion-throwing!
Today’s ATF (Asshole Tolerance Factor): Zero, peaking at 1. Some of you might want to remain indoors.
We’re just sayin’.
Overall outlook for —
MEN: Breezy, but with toe rubbers. You’ll despise, yet be powerless to change, the general perception that your mother still buys your clothes, and/or that you’ve just left a Presbyterian seminary.
As our fashion maven has it: “GAP ‘Relaxed Fit’ is death’s French kiss!”
POINTS TO PONDER: The way your boss stares at your sandwich while adjusting her pencil-skirt will make you question the cool-factor of waxed paper. Also egg salad.
WOMEN: Brave, with just the tiniest tragic hint of your grandmother’s pill-box hat. You’ll spend the day trying to project the plucky vulnerability of Dorothy Gale, while actually coming across as a more vitriolic Dorothy Parker, only without the redeeming wit.
WHAT WOULD IVANKA DO?: A Singapore Sling* at The Algonquin or similar establishment may help with your tendency to assume the role of “Ms. Quark-y Gluon Who Holds the Universe Together”.
But your PMS will hate you.
High tonight? (as in, Will you be…?) Seriously? Like, does the Pope wear Balenciaga? We totally think he does!
This has been Today’s Existential Forecast™ : We face the world so you don’t have to!™
*[Sorry — That should read “A Singapore Sling or five”. My bad! LMAO!! — ed.]